The wistery of the hurled
Heard any good Monica jokes lately? Probably one too many. With the recent activities in the White House at the forefront of public consciousness, even dirty jokes contain political twists and punchlines. Political humor, once dominated by skilled newspaper cartoonists and standup veterans like Mark Russell, can now be found in lighter doses in the Sunday comics and on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Despite the growing use of cheap political gags in contemporary entertainment, one group still maintains mastery in the art of political humor.
The Capitol Steps is a musical political satire group founded in 1981. Since then, the group has recorded eighteen albums, appeared on Good Morning America and The Today Show, and traveled all over the country, spreading their unique brand of political humor. A self-acclaimed “politically correct, hygienic, bipartisan troupe,” The Capitol Steps is comprised of over twenty former Congressional staff members, ranging from a former Staff Director for a Senate Govern-mental Affairs Sub-committee to a former member of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Five members from the group perform at any one show, with the group’s particular brand of humor coming in the form of musical parodies. The songs are familiar, drawn from Broadway showtunes, jazz standards, and contemporary hits, though the lyrics are quite new to us. The latest Capitol Steps recording Unzippin’ My Doo-Dah features clever parodies like “My Pants Go Down,” sung to the tune of “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba, and “Happy Monica,” sung to the tune of Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song.”
The Capitol Steps gave a performance in Kresge Auditorium last Wednesday night, presented by LSC. The five members who performed at this particular show were Porter Koontz, Michael Forrest, Brian Ash, TyJuana Morris, and Capitol Steps founder Elaina Newport. Accompanied by pianist Dave Kane, the men and women donned a variety of wigs, fake eyebrows and mustaches, and outrageous costumes to become caricatures of Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Bob Dole, Dan Quayle, Newt Gingrich, and many more.
By the end of the opening number, it was easy to see this was not just any political comedy group. Any company of players that can transform a song as innocent as “Supercalafragilisticexpialadocious” from Mary Poppins to a musical commentary entitled “Supercallousmeanandnastyrightwinglegislation” is not only incredibly witty, but also musically skilled. Indeed, all five members sang with Broadway-quality voices and had fantastic stage presence as they imitated everyone from Linda Tripp to Ross Perot. It was especially exciting to see Elaina Newport, one of the founding members of The Capitol Steps, perform one of the group’s most famous sketches, “Angry Feminist Nursery Rhymes.”
One of the highlights of the evening was her number “Love at First Byte,” in which Elaina introduced herself as “the technological woman of the 90’s, Miss Applied Technology.” In response to the booming audience laughter, she thanked the audience, adding that “they didn’t get that one at Harvard.”
The evening closed with “Lirty Dies,” the signature sketch of The Capitol Steps in which one member goes on a tirade about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. while speaking in jumbled Capitol Steps English. This sketch, featured on almost every Capitol Steps recording, begins with a simple sentence, such as “There is a sex scandal with a bimbo in the office of the President of the US.” The featured performer then repeats the sentence in Capitol Steps English -- “There is a skex sandal with an imbo in the boffice of the Yesident of the Proo-Ess.” The sketch goes on and on, telling the story of “gorny highs” like President Clinton, “the gorniest hi in the wistery of the hurled.”
Though political humor may be as common as a Lewinsky joke, a group that combines political satire with smart lyrics and skilled musicality is a true rarity. The Capitol Steps is sure to have us laughing and singing along for many administrations to come. If you missed the show in Kresge Auditorium last week, you can catch the Capitol Steps every weekend at Chelsea’s Cabaret in Washington D.C. or on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” You can visit the troupe’s Web site at http://www.capsteps.com for sound samples, a performance schedule, and information on how to order one of the Capitol Steps recordings.